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January 27, 1989 - Image 17

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1989-01-27
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record titles be too deceiving?

Film combines talents and gei

The Downsiders
All My Friends are Fish
Mammoth Records
An album title like this usually says one
of two things about the artists: 1) that they're
genuinely wacky, disturbed, but creative folk
(like Robyn Hitchcock), or 2) that they're
dorky poseurs who spew contrived bits of
planned weirdness in an effort to seem cool
(like the kid in your high school class who
had a "Neurotic State" T-shirt and venetian
blind sunglasses).
So I thought I'd have this band pegged

within a few minutes. No such luck. In spite
of song titles like "Kenny Koughdrop" and
"Pony Made of Ice," there's relatively little
inspired lyrical weirdness on this album -
most of the lines are either hazy, bland
"image" lyrics or along the lines of "She
don't mind when I play guitar/ She don't
mind when I go too far" from "She's
Alright." But they also avoid (somewhat) the
potential for boredom inherent in their laid-
back, two guitar, Doors-influenced approach.
Yes, these songs, with their lazy tempos,
acid-trip bass lines, and mellow melodies,

wouldn't be out of place at a sit-crosslegged-
on-your-living-room-floor-and-"relate" session
- but there's also enough guitar mayhem
(unfortunately relegated to carefully-controlled
status in the background of most tracks) to
make Fish more than mood music. Jeff Tracy
lets loose with some dangerous slide guitar
on "Old Black Crow" and gives the lethargic
singing a much-needed kick in the butt with
his base-of-the-neck improvisation; the
overall mixture recalls the Meat Puppets at
their more tranquil.
What makes the Puppets great, however,

is their ability and willingness to kick out
hard, and creatively to boot, which the
Downsiders don't have. The only two forceful
songs here are their version of The Beatles'
"Wild Honey Pie," a pointless song to cover
if you just do it straight, and "She's Alright,"
which sounds like what they put in bad '60s
movies where the script called for "a rock and
roll band" playing in the bar.
Is this a bad album gone good or a good
album gone bad? Only their next album will
tell. Wait for it.
-Jim Poniewozik

Three Fugitives imports
French talent and local fun

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(Wilmington, N.C.) - Four tal-
ented people created Three Fugitives,
a film which follows two of the
most dominant trends of Hollywood
today. Producer Lauren Shuler-Don-
ner and director/writer Francis Veber
combined their skills with actors
Nick Nolte and Martin Short to
come up with a buddy film that is an
American adaptation of a French
Buddy films have actually been
around forever- Laurel and Hardy
and such - but the motif has been
recently and voluminously revived
with such films as Rain Man and
Midnight Run. The Americanization
of French films, however, is a rela-
tively new, increasing phenomenon.
Last year's hit Three Men and a
Baby was based on the original ver-
sion Tres Hommes et un Coffin. In
a few weeks, a film entitled.
Cousins, starring Ted Danson (who
was also in Three Men), will be re-
leased, hoping to capitalize on the
success of the French film Cousin,
Cousine. And now Three Fugitives
joins the ranks of this growing list.
French comedies have a reputa-
tion for being very funny. While
this sounds redundant, the term
French Bedroom Farce is as much a
part of motion picture terminology
as Special Effects - and it's a much
less expensive genre to produce.
Money is one of the reasons why
French films are often of the
comedic nature.
Money is also a strong entice-
ment for foreign directors to come to
America to make their films. Not

only is their paycheck bigger, but so
is their budget and their audience.
Director Veber is one of the hottest
filmmakers from his country, and
his Les Fugitifs sold a total of 3.3
million tickets in France. Rain Man
sold about 2 million tickets in the
U. S. last weekend alone. And
while the French version of Veber's
film cost under $10 million, the
budget for the American version was
in the teens.
The emigration of directors has
been around since at least the 1920s,
with German director Fritz Lang, and
continued through the '40s with En-
glishman Alfred Hitchcock. The
most recent crop of foreign directors
include a number of Australians,
such as Peter Weir (Witness), Bruce
Beresford (Her Alibi), and Fred
Schepesi (Roxanne). With the en-
trance of Veber, the incoming flow
of foreign talent may bring in more
French filmmakers.
'Nolte...is nothing like a
wimp. He and Short are as
different as can be, which
works well on screen.'



Sonic Youth's newest album continues to highlight the band's hard-hitting guitar playing, but
adds resonating lyrics and harmonies.




to show their skills

French Director/Writer Francis Veber was drawn to the U.S. to
work on an American version of Three Fugitives.

and A
Whenever you need copies, depend on
Kinko's for quality, timely service

Sonic Youth
Daydream Nation
Blast First/Enigma
Sonic Youth is a guitar band.
Some would say the guitar band.
That is to say, the Sonic Youth
catalogue has done for guitar playing
what the Kama Sutra did for sex -
created an encyclopaedic record of the
exquisite pain and pleasure derived
from altering, contorting, and per-
verting the instrument which should
have long ago exhausted its
That's what makes the intro to
"Teen Age Riot," Daydream Na-
tion's first cut, such a shock. It's
normal. It's a pleasing wash of two-
note chords following the chord
structure of the verse. That's all. No
feedback. No tricks. No funny tun-
ings. You can play it on an average,
six-string, EADGBE-tuned guitar
without the aid of any out-of-the-
ordinary messin' around.
This doesn't mean that Sonic
Youth have by any means gotten
boring. There's enough six-string
excoriation and verbal lashing on
this double album to make it the hot

poker in the brain which their al-
bums, at their best, usually are. But
the band's flirtation with the verse-
chorus-verse format does mean Day-
dream Nation could prove to the
public (or at least the "new music"
public), who haven't yet acquired the
taste for Sonic Youth, that the band
has an ear for music and the hands to
create it.
First for the ear: this album is
proof of what a lifetime of listening
to good music can do for you. From
"Silver Rockets"' bare-bones, late-
'70s-issue punk to the Iggy/Alice
Deadpan Alley irony and cool guitar
buzz of "Total Trash," the band does
their progenitors proud without do-
ing them over. Nation is possibly
the band's best-written album yet,
showing off their ability to entrance
and jar the listener with their
creativity and dissonance without
succumbing (except on "The
Sprawl") to a tendency to lapse into
over-extended jams which are better
left out of the studio (as any of their
concerts or amazing live bootlegs
As for the hands, the album.

probably does the best job of any
previous release in showcasing
bassist Kim Gordon and drummer
Steve Shelley, who deliver brutal
beatings on "Eric's Trip" and
"Kissability." But it is guitarists
Thurston Moore's and Lee Renaldo's
hands that make the band. Whether
twining in harmony on "Teen Age
Riot" or boiling over in harmonics
on "Hey Joni," their harsh, single-
note conscious playing is a reminder
that the voice of the guitar is a set of
sharp metal strings that can cut you.
Their instrumental work conjures
visions of lines - straight hard
lines like a knitting needle or a
Ridiculous verbiage aside, what
we have here is a rock n' roll band.
When Gordon sneers on "The
Sprawl," "Does 'fuck you' sound
simple enough?" she captures the
essence of Nation. It's an album as
simple as that charming expletive,
as complicated as its many mean-
ings, as smart as the voice behind it,
and every bit as satisfying to blast at
your neighbors.
-Jim Poniewozik

Veber's case is unusual, though.
Three of the screenplays he wrote as
French films have already been made
into American movies. His Le Jouet
became The Toy. L'Emmerdeur (A
Pain in the Ass) became Buddy,
Buddy, and The Tall Blond Man
with One Black Shoe became The
Man with One Red Shoe. Two more
of his films, Le Chevre (The Goat)
and Les Comperes (The Buddies), are
both in the works to cross the At-
But it is Three Fugitives that
brought the man, not just his writ-
ing, to the U.S. After Veber wrote
the script, Jeffrey Katzenberg (the
head of Walt Disney Pictures) offered
to buy it from him, but production
was already under way in France. So
Katzenberg did the next best thing
- he hired Veber to write and direct
the American version, and he bought
the foreign distribution rights to the
French version. According to pro-
ducer Lauren Shuler-Donner, the
film in France "was a huge hit. Jef-
frey sent him a telegraph that said
'Congratulations, and thanks for
making me look smart."'
The storyline is typically Veber:
two men, who normally wouldn't
want to know each other, are forced
into close contact and eventually be-
come friends. Nick Nolte plays Lu-
cas, a former bank thief and multi-
ple-time ex-con. Directly after he is
released from jail, Lucas goes to a
bank, but not to rob it. Instead, he is
going straight, and wants to open an
account with the money he earned
cleaning shirts in prison.
Enter Ned Perry (Martin Short), a
first-time bumbling bank robber

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" Collating
* Specialty Paper
- Cutting

t i n .il~

the copy center
s Open 24 Hours i
1220 S. University1

Open 24 Hours
540 E. Liberty

Open 7 Days
Michigan Union

Martin Short and Nick Nolte are thrown together as an unlikely duo in the newest buddy film
Three Fugitives.



W4,),&4:)/JANUARY 271989
1 i r r ' ' :. 1


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